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Fennel and spinach lasagne rolls

Sat, 19 August, 2023

Lasagne rolls filled with a fennel and feta mix, baked in a creamy spinach sauce – that’s such a good riff on classic lasagna! And who cares it’s not very authentic if it’s that tasty?

fennel and spinach lasagne rolls

You don’t need to roll up the pasta sheets. You don’t even need to use lasagne. Giant conchiglie, shells, will suit this dish just as well. But the flavour combination of fennel sharpened up with salty feta, which makes the filling, with creamy, dreamy spinach sauce is absolutely wonderful.

pasta bake with fennel and spinach

How to make the fennel filling

Two bulbs of fennel, and they don’t need to be spanking fresh.

I’m sure you know the feeling when you open the fridge vegetable drawer and find those two heads you’d bought a week ago, developing more and more brown spots with the fronds on them looking less and less green.

Bought for a salad? For a caramelised side dish? But somehow the plans didn’t happen and the miserable fennel was left out (or rather in) in the cold. No matter – its time has now come.

fennel filling ingredients

All you need to do is trim the brown spots, perhaps peel off the outside layer and slice the bulbs thinly. It will take ten minutes to soften in some oil and butter, with ground fennel seeds for seasoning (top chefs’ secret: complement or contrast your seasoning).

When it’s cooked, you’ll add crumbled or mashed feta cheese and lots of fresh dill – another aniseedy element – to turn it into a chunky paste.

cooking fennel filling

How to make creamy spinach sauce

If you have only frozen spinach, make sure it thaws before you cook it, otherwise you’ll spend ages cooking off the moisture.

If the spinach is fresh, wilt it in the microwave with some water clinging to the leaves from washing it. You can also blanch it by pouring over boiling water. Then either chop it very finely or blitz it roughly with a stick blender.

pureeing spinach

The sauce will be made by cooking the spinach with some butter and crème fraiche, seasoned with nutmeg and garlic. Grated Parmesan will thicken it a little and you can also add some cornflour slurry if necessary. It shouldn’t be too watery but rather – well – saucy.

cooking spinach sauce

Do I need to parboil lasagne sheets?

I never, ever do for traditional lasagne – it bakes in enough sauce, be it tomato or ragu, to cook the pasta thoroughly. But in this instance the sheets must be pliable so yes, parboiling is on order.

Depending on the brand, they should take three or four minutes in simmering water, but you’d better make sure they are rollable by extracting one with tongs, rinsing it with cold water and checking the rollability.

lasagne rolls with fennel and feta baked in spinach sauce

Assembling lasagne rolls

Once all are drained and rinsed, the fun part: the rolling. Prepare a dish wide enough to fit a rolled up sheet. The breadth is less important: you can double-stack the rolls like I did in the pictures.

Spread each pasta sheet with the fennel mixture and roll it up tightly.

rolling up pasta sheets

Arrange them in the dish, with some spinach sauce spread on the bottom and between layers, if you layer the rolls. The remaining sauce will go over the rolls, ideally covering them fully.

assembling lasagne rolls

Lasagne baking trick

And now the important lasagne trick: wrap the dish tightly in cling film before covering it with kitchen foil. No, it won’t burn or poison you (as long as it’s food grade obviously) but it will keep the dish moist during the baking.

Good lasagne (or rolls) should not dry out in the oven but should only get crisp on top and around the edges in the last stage of cooking. Which is after about half an hour, when you take off both film and foil and sprinkle Parmesan or other grated cheese over the spinach sauce.

And the last important point: let it rest when out of the oven. If it’s served boiling hot you won’t be able to a/ cut it, b/ taste it properly or c/ take any decent photographs. Or is it just me for the last point?

lasagne rolls with fennel and spinach

Swaps and subs

Instead of feta, you can use ricotta – it will make the dish more Italian. But since it is not, nor is it supposed to be, any traditional Italian pasta dish, you can use whatever you like. And I like the saltiness of feta together with the mild fennel.

No feta or ricotta? Use cream cheese. The same applies to the spinach sauce: instead of crème fraiche you can stir in some cream cheese or double cream, or even yoghurt though I’ve personally not tried that last substitution.

If you’re of the cheesy pasta orientation, sprinkle grated mozzarella, Gruyere or Cheddar over the dish when the foil is taken off. Or even stuff extra cheese inside the rolls.

And as I mentioned at the start, you can use conchiglie or cannelloni with the fennel mix instead of lasagne.

rolled up lasagne with fennel

More pasta bake recipes

Baked ziti, penne or rigatoni with bacon and roasted aubergine: it does not drown in cheese or tomato sauce, and it is not a million calories like your usual pasta bake.

Chunky vegetable lasagne, with peppers, courgettes and tomatoes. Coated in creamy white sauce with a mozzarella layer, it will cook to a bubbling, gorgeous perfection.

Leek and mushroom penne pasta bake with mascarpone and mozzarella. It's easy, it's cheesy; it's veggie, it's crispy - it's an ultimate comfort pasta bake.

More fennel recipes

Caramelised fennel slices sautéed in a pan with maple syrup and white balsamic vinegar. The best way of cooking fennel, it makes an exquisite side dish, or a lovely starter served with a chunk of crusty bread.

Fennel and Taleggio cheese pie with savoury crust made from scratch, this is an easy and excellent vegetarian comfort dish recipe.

Potato and fennel gratin, a super-comfort dish of sliced potatoes and fennel baked in garlicky cream and a generous sprinkle of Gruyere or Cheddar.

fennel spinach feta lasagne rolls

Fennel and spinach lasagne rolls

Servings: 2Time: 2 hours


  • For the filling:
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 250g (1 ½ cups) feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • lemon juice, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • For the spinach sauce:
  • 300g fresh spinach (or frozen, thawed)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 100g (½ cup) crème fraiche
  • 4 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp water
  • For the lasagne rolls:
  • 6 dried lasagne sheets
  • butter for the dish
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan


1. Trim the fennel bulbs and slice them thinly.

2. In a large saucepan heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the fennel, salt and sugar, cover and cook stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Grind the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar and add to the fennel.

4. Mash the feta with a fork. When the fennel is cooked, mix it in with the chopped dill, a squeeze of lemon and some black pepper. Leave aside.

5. For the spinach sauce, wash the spinach. Place it in a large bowl and microwave at full power for 2-3 minutes until wilted. If using frozen, squeeze out excess moisture from the thawed leaves. Chop it finely or blitz it with a stick blender to a coarse purée.

6. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and add the spinach with the salt, nutmeg and black pepper. Peel the garlic clove and grate it into the spinach. Cook for about 5 minutes.

7. Stir in the crème fraiche and Parmesan; if it’s still very watery, mix the cornflour into the 1 tbsp water and add to the pan. Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, taste for seasoning then set aside.

8. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Blanch the lasagne sheets for 3-4 minutes until they are pliable. Remove one from the pot and rinse it under cold water to test. When ready, drain and rinse in cold water to stop them from sticking together.

9. Butter a deep baking dish about 23 x 15cm (9 x 6 inch). Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.

10. Place one lasagna sheet at a time on a chopping board and spread a heaped tablespoon of the fennel filling over it. Roll it up, then prepare the others in the same way. You can also arrange all the sheets on the work surface and divide the filling between them, then spread and roll up.

11. Spread 3 tbsp of the spinach sauce at the bottom of the dish. Nest 3 rolls over it, spread with more spinach sauce then arrange the remaining 3 rolls. Spoon all the remaining sauce over the rolls.

12. Cover the dish tightly with cling film, then with aluminium foil; make sure the foil completely covers the cling film.

13. Bake for 30 minutes, take off both foil and film and sprinkle with Parmesan. Return the dish to the oven for another 20 minutes.

14. Let it stand out of the oven for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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